Some of you may be wondering why there has not been more news coming out of the Neighbourhood Plan Team over the last couple of months. The reason is that this has been a period of review, planning and discussion …. review of all the 250+ comments and suggestions received on our Pre-submission Plan; planning how we should respond to all those comments – particularly what needs to change in the Final Submission of our plan; and detailed discussions within the team and (critically) with all the other parties necessary to ensure that our final plan is robust and can be delivered in practice. These activities are complicated and take a lot of time!
On 24 May South Oxfordshire District Council rejected an application to build 120 houses on land south of Watlington Road (BEN5).
Many Benson residents objected to the plan including over 25 who attended the planning committee meeting.
Parish Councillor Jon Fowler said: “The village was firmly opposed to plans that undermined their Neighbourhood Plan which is nearing completion. It is great news that the council listened to their concerns and rejected the proposal. Benson can now get on with seeing the Neighbourhood Plan through to adoption.”
SODC has just published details of the next meeting of the Planning Committee on Wednesday 24th May and it includes a recommendation from SODC Officers to approve a development of 120 houses on BEN5 – see letter from SODC below; agenda and reports pack for the meeting are here .
This site is not allocated in our Neighbourhood Plan and both the Parish Council and the Neighbourhood Plan team are opposed to the development for a number of reasons:
- Benson does not need any more houses over those already approved and those allocated in our Plan
- Unlike the allocated sites, which will each provide for sections of the Edge Road to be built, BEN5 provides no compensating benefits whatsoever to the village.
- BEN5 will add to congestion and exacerbate existing traffic problems, especially during peak hours, as cars attempt to enter and exit the development through the single access road provided, onto the B4009 and running west through the village.
- OCC has advised that there is a limit on the number of extra places that can be realised by extending Benson Primary School – we are already at this limit with the developments being built/committed and those allocated in our NP, so if BEN5 is approved, an equivalent number of houses will need to be removed from the allocated sites, for lack of school places, and this will make it impossible to deliver a joined up Edge Road.
- BEN5 is outside the boundary established in the NP and, if approved, would radically alter the historic shape of Benson following the line of Benson Brook and significantly harm the landscape views in and out of the village, by taking it up onto higher ground
- Email expressing your views to our SODC Councillor, Felix Bloomfield at email@example.com
- Attend the Planning Committee meeting to show the strength of feeling that exists in Benson – this will be held at 6pm on Wednesday 24th May at Didcot Civic Hall, Britwell Road, Didcot OX11 7JN
In this draft plan, SODC has included its intention to safeguard land for an Edge Road (Bypass) for Benson. This does not in itself secure an Edge Road but is an important step on the way. The link to SODC’s Plan is below and the relevant sections are Policy ‘TRANS3’ on page 112 and in Appendix 5 ‘Safeguarding Maps’, page 212.
URGENT NOTE – Due to changes made without notice to the Parish Council’s email service by their provider, Virgin.net, they have had to change the address for all email responses to the Benson Pre-Submission Plan. The new address to email with your comments is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you submitted your responses to the old email address after Monday 20th March 2017 your responses will not have been received, please re-submit them to the above address. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
Our Pre-Submission Plan is now available to view and comment on – see Pre-Submission Plan tab above for details.
Many thanks to everyone who attended last Friday’s meeting at the Parish Hall! It was ‘standing room only’ for many, so we are particularly grateful for your patience! The very high turnout of 356 parishioners and the animated debate that followed the initial presentation clearly demonstrates the level of concern in the village about the scale of potential development.
For those who could not make the meeting, there is a brief summary below of what took place. In addition, we will be holding 2 shorter drop-in sessions at the School this Thursday 9th Feb and Friday 10th Feb starting at 3pm – so if you’d like to know more, please come along!
Jon Fowler, The Benson Plan Chair, gave a presentation covering the following areas:
- Benson’s potential development landscape – covering all the approved, current and likely applications.
- The challenges posed by the number and scale of these to the village itself and to its infrastructure (in common with many other councils) to demonstrate that they have 5 years worth of land supply to deliver their housing quota, means that planning applications that are not technically ‘unsustainable’ have to be determined by SODC with ‘a presumption in favour of development’.
- What can be done/can we do to change this position? SODC are working to secure the required Land Supply; WE need to complete our Plan and get it through the formal, 6-month Consultation, Inspection and Referendum process by August.
- How did the Benson Plan Team approach the task of deciding where developments should/should not go – we employed a specialist consultancy and used their objective spatial approach to ensure our proposals are unbiased and difficult to challenge.
- The proposals made in our Plan – specifically that we should support (i) approx 80 houses on BEN2 and (ii) approx 25 houses on BEN7, subject to the rest of BEN7 being transferred to the Parish to afford much-needed burial ground.
- The supplementary proposals in the Plan to handle the emerging plan to build 3,000 homes at Chalgrove Airfield – if this goes ahead, the additional traffic generated will make an ‘Edge Road’ for Benson absolutely essential; and securing an Edge Road from developers will require us to support additional housing in BEN3/4.
- Plan timescales – we intend to submit the first draft for consultation this month. This is 3 months later than we originally planned, due to the late and unexpected requirement imposed on us for a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and impacts on our Plan of the potential development of Chalgrove Airfield.
- What do we need from the village? We need everyone to understand what’s at stake, to recognise that the circumstances are far from ideal, but that we lose even more if we don’t act with pragmatism and urgency. So please support us to complete the Plan and get it adopted fast!
All these topics were then discussed in a lengthy Q&A session, particularly the importance of securing an Edge Road and the impact of additional housing on the School. We intend to put up the answers given to these and other important questions on an updated Frequently Asked Questions page on the Benson Plan website – available shortly.
At the end of the meeting, we held a show of hands for overall support of the Plan and our approach. The overwhelming majority supported the Plan, with just 12 against.
We also provided 200 printed Feedback Forms for attendees to complete and return to the Parish Hall. This was clearly not enough, given the size of the attendance, so we have uploaded the Feedback Form to the Plan website here. Please do print out and complete the form and either scan it and return electronically to email@example.com or drop it through the letterbox at the Parish Hall. Or you can fill in the survey monkey form online here.
We plan to hold a Village Meeting to discuss our Draft Neighbourhood Plan on 3rd February at 7pm in the Parish Hall. See further information here
Benson as a community needs your support to define the future of our village. Our Neighbourhood Plan is nearly complete and we aim to submit it to SODC in February.
What are we asking you to do?
- Join us in Benson Parish Hall at 7pm Friday 3 February
- Hear how the Neighbourhood Plan has progressed and what is being proposed
- Give us your views on our proposals
- Above all we need your support to ensure the Neighbourhood Plan is adopted and carries weight in future planning decisions
Come along to the Parish Hall and encourage neighbours to come too. We need to complete the Benson Plan so we can take back some control of housing in our village! See the flyer here for further information on the event and the process.
- 6.45pm – Doors open – feel free to view the information boards before the presentation
- 7pm – Presentation by the Benson Plan Team on current progress
- 7.45pm – 8.30pm – Open Forum Q&A session. The Benson Plan Team will answer any questions you might have
- 8.30pm – 9pm – View the information boards and fill in a feedback form. Give us your views, we want to hear them.
We look forward to seeing you on the 3rd February (refreshments will be available – first glass of wine is free).
We plan to hold a Village Meeting to discuss our Draft Neighbourhood Plan on 3rd February prior to submitting the Plan to SODC for review shortly after that. Our timetable is tight and January is going to be very busy, so we wanted to ask for volunteers to help – initially in two areas …. though we may be back with further requests shortly!
- Help to transcribe comments from the Drop-in sessions– If our Plan is to have a strong influence on what gets developed in Benson, it needs to be evidence-based. Among other things, this means capturing accurately the input we receive from our community. At the last Drop-in session in early December, about 50 people submitted written comments, many of them quite lengthy, which we need now to transcribe to Microsoft Word. In order to make this a manageable task, it would be great if we could identify 3 or 4 volunteers to share the work. There will no doubt be several other ‘data capture’ exercises like this, so ideally we are looking for volunteers who would be prepared to repeat this exercise periodically!
- Desktop Publishing Skills– Following the village meeting on 3rd February, the Neighbourhood Plan Team will be pulling together all the strands of the plan into a single coherent document, together with photographs, diagrams, maps and supporting evidence. To help with this exercise, the team is looking for someone with desktop publishing experience and skills, who can manage the design, formatting and publication process. Please do let us know if you have these skills and would be able and willing to help!
If you can help us with either of these requests, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your preferred contact details and we will get back to you.
There’s a lot of concern in Benson about planned new housing in the village and elsewhere in South Oxfordshire. Therefore there is a drop-in event planned for Saturday 3 December between 10am and noon at Benson Parish Hall to hear about:
- Updates on all the development sites in Benson
- The traffic impact of this housing on the area
- News on housing throughout South Oxfordshire
- Progress on the Benson Neighbourhood Plan
Please come along to the Parish Hall and encourage neighbours to come too. We need to complete the Benson Plan so we can take back some control of housing in our village!